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Four tips for negotiating a salary increase

The prospect of asking the boss for a raise might strike fear into your heart, but you’ve to to be in it to win it…

Australians hate talking about money. In fact, we’d much rather discuss politics or what goes in in our bedrooms than our personal finances, according to a recent survey.

It’s the same thing in the workplace: research by ME Bank found that only 12 per cent of all working Australians, and a mere eight per cent of women, had ever asked for a pay raise. This is despite that fact that three-quarters of those who asked for more money actually got it!

Depending on what statistics you choose to believe, failing to negotiate regular salary increases could see you leaving up to a million dollars on the table over the course of your career.

So here’s some advice about how to squeeze some extra take-home from the company coffers…

Know your own value

“Salary coach” Catherine Heilemann, who runs individual and group coaching on salary negotiations and self-promotion, says being able to quantify your value is your most important negotiating weapon.

“Know your worth. This is huge,” Catherine says. “Be able to document examples of when your contribution has helped in ways such as revenue or profit increase, productivity gains, customer satisfaction improvement or team building.

“You’ll need to be able to describe the situation, what you did to contribute and attribute a bottom line figure to it.”

And she says it’s just as important to nail the delivery: “Get your bottom-line messages as crisp as you can. Practise them over and over so you can access them in the moment.”

Make fear your friend

Catherine says one of the main obstacles to people asking for a raise is simple fear.

“Fear is a clever and treacherous adversary,” she says. For salaries, it manifests in the doubt that you deserve more money.

“But fear is also a great motivator. So work out the number you believe you are worth. The number that unequivocally says ‘this is me, this is what I’m worth’. Now add 10 per cent. Fear plus 10 per cent – that’s your number.

“Say it in front of the mirror and your most trusted confidantes at least 20 times. It will feel strange at first but the more your iterate it the more you start to own it.”

Do your research

“It’s important to know what is happening in the market, in your company, with your peers,” Catherine says. “So read the industry news and check out Glassdoor, which is a great self-reporting website. Chat with your colleagues, network and trusted advisors.

“Also, call up some recruiters to ask them what the market is like, and locate salary surveys – Hays do a great one each year.”

Consider changing jobs

According to recruitment firm Michael Page changing jobs could net you a salary increase of as much as 20 per cent, depending on your industry.

Catherine says that people are often more comfortable going after bigger numbers with potential employers because the conversations are less “adversarial”.

“Because you are interviewing the potential future employer as much as they are interviewing you it will feel a little less adversarial,” she says. “It’s a bit like a new romance: everyone wants to be seen in their best and most confident light.

“If you’re already aware of the salary range they’re offering, be optimistic and ask for the top end of the bracket. If they say that’s a bit too high, press them for their number. If the number isn’t too far off what you’re hoping for then it’s worth continuing the conversation.”

And if you really don’t want to change jobs you can at least use the prospect of leaving as leverage to secure an increase in your current role.

Three things you shouldn’t do…

  1. Don’t talk yourself down. Believe in your own worth and act like you do. “Recently I was interviewing someone who at the end of our time together said to me, ‘It was great meeting you and if I don’t hear from you I hope it all goes well,’” Catherine says. “They were feeling defeated. So, put on some bravado. Fake it ’til you make it.”

  2. Don’t explain why you need the money. “Bosses definitely don’t want to hear this,” Catherine says. “They want to hear about how you can help them, not the other way around.”

  3.  Don’t compare yourself to your peers. “This kind of thing makes your boss want to cringe,” Catherine says. “And if it gets out that you said you were better than someone in your team it will damage relationships.”

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